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Press Release: More Strikes Hit St. Louis’ Largest Fast Food Chains

May 9, 2013 Economy, Politics/Policy, Retail 22 Comments

The following is from a press release:


Inspired by New York City and Chicago Fast Food Walkouts, St. Louis Workers Strike Major National Chains

First-ever St. Louis Fast Food Walkout; STL Can’t Survive on $7.35 Campaign Launches Calling For $15 and the Right to Form a Union without Retaliation; Aims to Get St. Louis’ Economy Moving Again

ST. LOUIS— Workers walked off their jobs at Jimmy John’s and McDonald’s Wednesday in the first-ever fast-food strike to hit St. Louis and more 100 workers are expected to join them today. In their one-day strikes of major national brands like McDonald’s, Jimmy Johns, Domino’s, Hardees and Wendy’s are on strike, the employees are calling for wages that support their families and the right to form a union without retaliation.

The workers’ campaign, STL Can’t Survive On $7.35, seeks to put money back in the pockets of the 36,000 men and women who work hard in the city’s fast food restaurants, but still can’t afford basic necessities like food, clothing, and rent. The Self-Sufficiency Standard for an adult with one child living in St. Louis County is $14.84 per hour working full time. If workers were paid more, they’d spend more, helping to get St. Louis’ economy moving again.

“There are days I wonder, ‘how am I going to get home’ because I can’t afford my bus fare,” said Patrick Leeper, who has worked at Chipotle for more than three years, “Sometimes I walk for more than an hour just to save my train fare so I can spend it on Ramen noodles. I can’t even think about groceries.”

Fast food workers bring $1 billion a year into the cash registers of St. Louis, yet most of these workers earn Missouri’s minimum wage of $7.35, or just above it, and are forced to rely on public assistance programs to provide for their families and get healthcare for their children. They’re coming together for $15 per hour and the right to form a union so they can support their families, and put money back into the economy.

“I’ve been at Jack in the Box for four years, cleaning and prepping food and all I get paid is $7.55 without any benefits,” said Anita Gregory, a mother of one, who is expecting her second child in the next few weeks. “I’m tired of having to struggle to survive while working so hard.”

It would take a typical St. Louis fast food worker minimum-wage full-time worker more than 1,300 years to earn as much as the CEO of YUM! Brands, which owns Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, made in 2012.

The two days of strikes here in St. Louis come just weeks after hundreds of fast food and retail workers went on strike in Chicago and hundreds more walked off their jobs in New York City. The strikes by low-wage workers began on Black Friday back in November, with hundreds of Walmart workers walking off their jobs. It spread weeks later to fast food, with workers embarking on the first-ever strike to hit the industry.

Low-wage jobs have accounted for the bulk of new jobs added in the recovery, and fast food positions are among the fastest-growing in St. Louis. Workers here, like those around the country, are increasingly joining together to fight for higher wages that will lift the economy.

“Workers in fast-food jobs are no longer freckle-faced teenagers looking for some summer pocket change,” said the Rev. Martin Rafanan, director of STL $7.35. “Increasingly, fast food jobs are the only options for St. Louisans, but these workers can’t even afford to pay for rent, food and bus fare. If the workers earned more, fast food workers would spend that money at local businesses here in St. Louis and help lift our economy.”

Founded in February of 2013, the St. Louis Organizing Committee is an independent union of fast food workers. The workers’ STL Can’t Survive on $7.35 campaign seeks a $15 an hour wage and the right to form a union without retaliation. The STL Can’t Survive on $7.35 campaign is supported by a coalition of dozens of community, labor and faith-based groups including: ACTION; Adorers of the Blood of Christ; St. Louis AFL-CIO; AFSCME Illinois Council 31; Aquinas Institute; ARAW/Jobs with Justice National; Ascension Episcopal; Bethel Lutheran; Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, St Louis, Central Reform Congregation; Central Reform Congregation; Eastern District Laborer Council 110; Eden Seminary; Epiphany UCC; Episcopal Diocese; Families USA; Gethsemane Lutheran Church; Jobs with Justice Workers’ Right Board; Kirkwood UCC; Missouri Jobs with Justice; MO Health Care For All; MORE; National Nurses United; New Life Evangelistic Center; Parkway United Church of Christ; People’s World; Personal UFCW655; Presbyterian Church USA; PROMO; ProVote; SEIU Health Care; SEIU Local 1; St John’s Catholic Church; St John’s Episcopal; St Joseph’s Catholic Church; St Margaret of Scotland; St Mark Lutheran; St Peter’s United Church of Christ; St. Pius; St Thomas United Church of Christ; Teamsters 688;The Bridge at Newtown; United Church of Christ in Afton; United Food and Commercial Workers 655; United Food and Commercial Workers 88; Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church; Westminster Presbyterian; Westside Baptist; Young Activists United


Currently there are "22 comments" on this Article:

  1. chaifetz10 says:

    $15 is simply rediculous. I can see a slight increase (like $9), but there is no way a fast food restaurant can justify $15. Not to mention the simplest economic principles are being completely left ouf of the equation here…inflation. “If the workers earned more, fast food workers would spend that money at local businesses here in St. Louis and help lift our economy.” What they don’t discuss is the price increases at these restaurants to meet the workers wage increases, decreasing the demand and / or seeing an increase in pricing at other locations. It’s not a simple, pay everyone more and we’ll have more to spend. Businesses would increase prices to match this inflation, thus leaving you in the same spot you were originally.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for fair labor laws and workers rights. But the fast food industry is not the same as the local market for Business Analysts or Doctors. I understand that this may be a career for some, but it’s not a under staffed or overly specialized industry. Fast food is based off of the idea that you can pay people low wages because there is high turn over and minimal training.

    • Fozzie says:

      Agreed. Why promote this nonsense?

      • chaifetz10 says:

        I don’t know. What’s the point of getting an education if I can drop out of HS and make $15?!

        • I read a quote from one striker that said they obviously don’t expect $15 an hour, but rather that is where they’re starting in negotiations, with the assumption that it will drop down to somewhere in between the two ends.

          • chaifetz10 says:

            Good to know. I still think $9 is probably the max they will receive (and that’s not for the entry level…it would be the more for the longer working individuals)

  2. Next says:

    If they don’t want the work they should quit. It seems Luke I am being an ass, but look at it like this …. If the employer has no workers at that rate they will need to offer more to have a staff. Without a staff the restaurant can not run. Saying they want to unionize is a bully move. How can we teach our children not to be a bully then do it ourself. Again, not meaning to be an ass, but the woman who has problems feeding her family is pregnant again? Synergy some personal responsibility is in order.

  3. Protected, Concerted Activity says:

    It is “nonsense” if employees act collectively and demand a greater share of the profits? Is it nonsense for women in garment factories to demand higher pay? Is it a “bully move” when janitors band together and strike for raise? I suppose those fast food workers should know their place and keep quiet.

    • Fozzie says:

      Yes, $15/hour IS nonsense.

    • chaifetz10 says:

      It’s not nonsense that they want to unionize…just that they are unrealistic on their wants. It’s fast food… EMT’s who are working on ambulances don’t even make that much!

      • Scott Jones says:

        Maybe the EMTs should unionize?

        • chaifetz10 says:

          I know some that have and some that haven’t. (this includes some in Central IL). Honestly, the ones who have unionized still don’t have better benefits than those who haven’t. The pay is essentially the same. It might just be a bad union rep or bad negotiations, but I don’t think unionizing is the answer for every single industry.

          • JZ71 says:

            Unionizing doesn’t guarantee a good contract. Wages are based on labor supply – to some degree, no one is irreplaceable – and owners aren’t going to pay someone more just because they’re in a union. The bigger role for a union is helping to make sure that all workers are treated fairly / equitably, and that the bosses don’t play favorites among workers essentially doing the same job for the same pay.

            In the case of fast food, the preparation and delivery of the food has been dumbed-down to the point where it is essentially an assembly line and the workers simply follow a limited set of repeatable instructions – it ain’t rocket science. The only variable is what an owner needs to offer in pay in order to get enough workers to show up at the right time to crank out the product – Jimmy John’s and Burger King probably have to pay a little more in Chesterfield than they do in Affton. Along the gulf cost, after a hurricane, it’s not unusual to see fast food jobs offered for $15 an hour because of a limited supply of labor – if you can make $20 an hour, or more, doing debris removal or construction, why would you flip burgers for $8 or $10? Similarly, in the Loop, there’s a ready supply of labor from both the universities and from north city, along with good public transportation – if you don’t want to work for $8 an hour, someone else is going to walk in in the next hour or two, looking for an application, who IS willing to work for $8. It’s not what you see your value being, it’s what the boss sees it to be . . . .

          • chaifetz10 says:

            Great explanation. I think this is a great thought out reasoning of the supply/demand aspects of the industry.

          • Scott Jones says:

            JZ71: that reminds me of the “Job Guarantee” economic policy idea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job_guarantee ). Where the government would provide low-skill public service jobs to anyone who wanted one and whatever the hourly rates of these jobs were set to would essentially become the minimum wage.

  4. mike says:

    I don’t eat at fast-food restaurants, so I don’t care what price increases will be required to cover the higher wages. If wages are increased, the competition for certain positions will also increase…..possibly putting some of the striking rummies out of work. More qualified workers will apply for jobs, and those currently carrying the signs might have to find something else! I caution them to be careful what they wish for!

  5. Scott Jones says:

    In Scandanavian countries $15 would be considered substandard wages. There is no reason not to demand that high a wage other than the US is used to its low-wage workers being in near slave-like conditions. Look, there are always going to be rich people and poor people but the only way that we’re going to approach anything like what the majority of Americans say is the “ideal” wealth distribution (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/09/25/poll-wealth-distribution-similar-sweden/) is large-scale unionization of the service industries.

    • chaifetz10 says:

      Question: How does this impact the wages of every other industry? Wouldn’t $15 an hour for fast food push the wages for teachers and firefighters even higher? What’s the point of earning a college degree when you can drop out of HS and make $15 and hour instead? Also, how would you control inflation with such a dramatic wage increase?

      • Scott Jones says:

        Would it be a bad thing if teachers and firefighters got paid more? When you raise the wage for the lowest paid workers you essentially raise everyone’s wages. As for affecting college graduation rates: you can make significantly more than $15 a hour with a bachelors degree. $15 an hour is on the low end for starting pay for people with a degree. An engineer can easily make $25/hr with a BS starting pay and work up to $50/hr (or even more as a consultant). To go back to my Scandinavian example earlier, all the Scandinavian nations have higher college graduation rates than the US despite having far higher effective minimum wages. Source: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012026/tables/table_23.asp

        • chaifetz10 says:

          So if you raise everyone’s wages, wont the price of goods increase as well? How do you plan to keep items at the same costs yet increase the wages paid? The cost of living increases too… It’s simple inflation.

  6. branwell1 says:

    I’m all for workers being able to organize and demand fair treatment from employers, but I don’t think fast food wages were ever intended to support a family. They have historicallty been subsistence jobs for people just starting out in the working world, not the foundation for a richly rewarding career and a swell mortgage.

    Also, at the risk of sounding, well, mean, why would someone making this kind of money and supporting a child already have another one, like the “Anita Gregory, a mother of one, who is expecting her second child in the
    next few weeks” quoted in the story? That it is her private business and “right” to have children is not the point; I know of no surer way to struggle financially than to have a child…unless it’s to have two children. I have known working couples over the years who did not work at fast food dumps, but who waited to have children until their circumstances improved: house, bigger house, maybe more money in the bank, etc. It is not intellectually difficult to assess one’s circumstances and think, hm, I have one kid now, I make terrible money at a fast food place, bills are a struggle, maybe I should WAIT and have another child when I have more resources.


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